Self-Care for Educators

The month of August I’ll be gone on a backpacking trip with my brother. We’ll be thru-hiking Vermont’s Long Trail. If you want to follow along on that adventure you can head over to Brothers Welch, the blog we share.

I wanted to write a little reminder to the educators reading this to take time over the last month of summer to do what you love!

There are a lot of blogs out there about self-care: the benefits, whether or not it’s just re-branded self-indulgence, the science behind it, and on and on and on. So I won’t get too deep into self-care as broad topic.

Instead, I’ll speak from personal experience. I know anytime I had a rough day as a teaching assistant, or even now if I have a workshop that goes awry, heading out into the park by my apartment and taking a walk to clear my head really helps me out. It allows me to calm down, process, put things in perspective, and go about the rest of my evening. Hiking is a kind of care for me.

The work of anyone in a school or with youth is intense, you’re impacting the life of another person. Ideally that impact is positive, but even so it’s still a heavy responsibility to carry. On top of that, there’s administrative issues to deal with, the expectation of being a liaison to parents and the student’s community, and (depending on what and where you teach) the pressure of hitting certain metrics and scores.

With all these combined duties, you need an outlet or else you’ll burnout. I’ve seen it happen time and time again. There will be teachers, librarians, youth coordinators, who I thought were excellent, but have all of a sudden left the field entirely. These careers require you to give and give and give to others, so make sure you give to yourself every now again too.

Now, self-care won’t solve all the intrinsic problems of US education or even the problems within your own institutions, but I firmly believe it can help you be a better, more emphatic educator when the 2019-2020 school year starts up. What’s more, it’ll help you be rested and energized, ready to fight the battles necessary to create a change.

I know summertime can mean a lot of prep, especially at the tail end, but make sure among the classroom prep (and potentially/probably second job) to save some time to just do you!

Forest with three tall white birch trees in the front of other green foliage. In the foreground of the picture are stones arranged into a rough staircase.

Forest with three tall white birch trees in the front of other green foliage. In the foreground of the picture are stones arranged into a rough staircase.

Keeping Workshop Notes

I’ve recently been invited to present at education conferences and poetry festivals. This Include's SXSWedu, Split this Rock, and Berklee's ABLE Assembly.

Screenshot of flyer for Berklee College’s ABLE Assembly. Woman in yellow jacket and black dress speaks to an auditorium full of people sitting and listening attentively, some taking notes others just watching.

Screenshot of flyer for Berklee College’s ABLE Assembly. Woman in yellow jacket and black dress speaks to an auditorium full of people sitting and listening attentively, some taking notes others just watching.

It’s amazing and I’m incredibly excited, but preparing for these session makes me wonder: how do I stay present in the work?

With these presentations looming over me, it’s easy to over analyze sessions. A common inner monologue I have running is: “Okay, is there any part of this I can use in a speech? How can I frame this?”

I don’t want to start seeing these groups as case studies. They’re workshops full of incredibly talented and creative young writers. I want to keep myself and my curriculum flexible rather than worry about the potential talking points and video clips (I make a point to film all the sessions).

However it’s a difficult balance.

One thing I've done to offset this feeling is keep a journal. After every day of workshops I write short reflections: the highs and lows, anything of note, anything I need to try for next time, etc. while it's still fresh in mind.

I call them workshop notes (hence the name of this blog) playing on the session notes that OT, Speech, PT, Mental Health, and other therapists make after they see a student.

Knowing ahead of time that I've blocked off time in my schedule to reflect gives me the freedom to stay flexible and present during a session. I can't recommend this enough for anyone doing work in Arts Education. It's an easy enough practice, it's only as time intensive as you want to make it, and it's helped me keep track of the work I've done, making it easier to look back and, as result, look ahead without losing focus on the present

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Activities for Daily Living

I penned "Activities for Daily Living" shortly after returning from a conference where I was disappointed with the direction leaders in special education and autism education in particular were taking the field. It's a short piece advocating for more arts education for neurodiverse learners.

Give it a read up on the Solstice Literary Magazine blog!

https://solsticelitmag.org/blog/neurodiverse-students-need-creative-arts/

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